Saturday, August 11, 2001

Council votes to save Lebanon's oldest building

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — City Council voted 4-1 Friday to earmark $235,000 for 27 N. Mechanic St. — the final step in a nearly two-year effort to save the city's oldest building.

        “It's a great day for Lebanon, and it's a great day for historic preservation,” said Jerry Miller, treasurer of the nonprofit Lebanon Conservancy Foundation.

        The house has an elliptical fanlight window above the front door and other hints of its historic nature here and there throughout the Federal-style building. Past owners chopped it into apartments, and fire exposed much of one corner to the elements.

        Former Councilman John McComb bought the property in early 2000, after fire hit it. He intended to tear it down and expand a parking lot.

        The conservancy, however, persuaded council to take the property through eminent domain so the house can be restored instead.

        The group has committed $100,000 toward the $230,000 purchase price set by a jury in May. Legislation on Tuesday's agenda would give the conservancy a 99-year lease in exchange for its promise to restore the house within two years.

        It was built about 1808, according to conservancy research — probably by Shakers. The first owner was Samuel Nixon, Warren County's third treasurer.

        The city's decision to buy the building has been a controversial one because of the extent of its damage.

        Still, Councilman Ronald Pandorf noted earlier this week, Lebanon already has lost two old buildings to parking lots. He voted with the majority to keep that from happening to 27 N. Mechanic.

        Only Councilwoman Amy Brewer has regularly voted against the purchase.

        Two council members abstained from two votes on the house this week: James Reinhard, who has consistently sat out related votes because Mr. McComb is his brother-in-law, and Jane Davenport.

        Mrs. Davenport voted at least twice in the past to save the house, when council first voted 5-1 in May 2000 to seize it from Mr. McComb and when council voted 5-1 to set aside $100,000 for it in June 2000.

        This week, however, she asked to be excused from the votes, citing a conflict of interest because her husband owns property in the same block.


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